Tuesday, July 31, 2012

James Bond tells Jason Bourne (and that 'other guy') to piss off in two terrific new Skyfall trailers.

Two new trailers, one international and one domestic, have dropped for the new 007 film Skyfall.  And while they are both pretty much identical, they are both terrific previews.  Just a hint of plot, just a dash of new characters (it will be interesting seeing Javier Bardem play arguably the first 'super villain' in this specific Bond universe), and tons of incredibly impressive action beats.  There's not much to say other than 'Yes, do watch this!', although I worry that a one-two shot near the end hints at a pretty big spoiler.  No matter, Sam Mendes's Skyfall looks like another rock-solkid entry  in the long running series.  It opens on October 26th in the UK and November 9th in America.

Scott Mendelson    

Box office speculation: Will Total Recall "pull a John Carter"?

Note: I posted then removed this article late yesterday afternoon when some figures were questioned by an unnamed writer more knowledgeable than me. I realized that I hadn't bothered to link to anything since I thought the figure was common knowledge, and I didn't have time to investigate at that exact moment.  The article below is as is, with appropriate linkage.  

Thanks to
The Bourne Supremacy moving a week later to August 10th, we have another relatively light weekend at the box office, with only Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: Dog Days and Sony's Total Recall remake opening wide.  There is an uber-tight lid slammed shut on any advance word on Total Recall, with an embargo apparently existing until Wednesday for some and all the way until Friday for others.  I did not pursue and was not invited to a screening, and considering how busy I'm going to be for awhile I may not even see the film for a good long time (I'll see Diary of Wimpy Kid 3 before I see Total Recall).  But I digress.  What I come here to discuss is a relatively new phenomenon, which I would like to call 'pulling a John Carter'.  I don't mean that Total Recall will flop, although it *could* due to what appears to be a general lack of interest beyond morbid curiosity (is anyone in the blog-sphere talking about anything other than the relatively 'hotness' of Kate Beckinsale versus Jessica Biel?).  But at a cost of $200 million, Total Recall *has* to be a world-killing blockbuster both here and abroad just to break even.  And is there anyone here who thinks that Total Recall, sans a major global star or even 3D-enhancement, has the muscle to gross even $400 million worldwide, let alone the $550-600 million arguably necessary for a decent profit?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Trailer Analysis: Visually dazzling Cloud Atlas seems like the exact sort of ambitious film-making we claim we want.

Wow... just wow.  This went up a few days ago in a bootleg form, but it was worth the wait for the pristine 1080p version.  This is exactly the kind of film that we claim Hollywood lacks the nerve to make and yet here it is.  It's based on an acclaimed science fiction novel.  It stars the likes of Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturges, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Keith David, Jim Broadbent, and James D'Arcy.  It cost $100 million to make yet looks like it cost $500 million.  It's rated R.  It runs 164 minutes.  For those who claim that Hollywood doesn't make movies for adults anymore, you kinda have a duty to check this out in three months.  Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis are co-directing this Warner Bros pick-up and it looks pretty spectacular to say the least.  Since I have not read the 2004 book that this film is based on, I cannot say how spoiler-ish this footage is, but considering how under-the-radar this picture is 90 days before its debut, I'd argue that this is a necessary marketing tool to get people talking.  Long story short, this looks spectacular and instantly shoots to the upper-realms of my 'must-see' list for fall/winter 2012.  To be fair my secret wish is for Cloud Atlas to be so good that it causes people to reevaluate the inexplicably undervalued brilliance of Speed Racer and even (to a lesser extent) the Matrix sequels.  Cloud Atlas opens on October 26th.  I suppose 'we'll see', but yeah, go see it regardless.

Scott Mendelson      

Trailer Analysis: Silent Hill: Revelation gets a spoiler trailer.

Not much to say about this one.  I saw the original film on opening weekend way back in Spring 2006 and damned if I can remember all that much about it.  I remember being quite impressed by the imagery and the acting while relatively unmoved by the narrative and rarely outright frightened.  However, if only by default, the original film remains one of the most ambitious video game adaptations ever made, so I suppose it was inevitable that a sequel would eventually come down the pike, especially with the explosion in foreign business for 3D genre sequels over the last few years.  As for the trailer, I'm genuinely surprised that Sean Bean came back, but annoyed that the trailer doesn't even try to play the 'did he die?' card.  Ironically, the first Silent Hill is stunningly similar to a 200 direct-to-DVD thriller with Maria Bello called The Dark.  Sean Bean plays a somewhat hapless husband in both, both films involve grieving mothers attempting to 'find' their daughter and both end in a surprisingly similar fashion.  Anyway, Silent Hill: Revelations 3D opens October 26th, with Open Road taking over for Sony.  As always, we'll see.

Scott Mendelson  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Weekend Box Office (07/28/12): The Dark Knight Rises continues to dominate as The Watch and Step Up 4 open soft.

In the next couple days you're going to hear a lot about how the Aurora, Colorado shootings had some kind of negative effect on the box office this weekend.  You're going to hear about how The Dark Knight Rises (non-spoiler review/spoiler review) is some kind of disappointment and that it surely left money on the table due to the aftermath of said mass murder (some thoughts on that, natch).  So without getting too pompous about discrediting such malarky, let's get something out of the way right now.  After ten days, The Dark Knight Rises has earned $289 million.  That's the third-best ten-day total of all-time behind only The Dark Knight ($313 million) and The Avengers ($373 million) and a good $10 million ahead of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II ($373 million) without the 3D advantage.  Yes, the third Chris Nolan Batman film dropped  60% from last weekend, but it still earned $64 million in weekend two, the sixth-biggest second weekend of all-time (The Dark Knight earned $75 million in weekend two, a 53% drop).  In short, the threequel is playing like a normal insanely anticipated but also heavily front-loaded genre sequel that has its fan-base firmly entrenched without picking up many new viewers this time around.  In other words, it's playing a bit like a Harry Potter/Twilight sequel.  The Dark Knight Rises merely isn't the pure phenomenon that The Dark Knight was, and anyone that told you it would be was probably delusional or lying.  The Dark Knight was an event.  The Dark Knight Rises is just a heavily-anticipated genre sequel.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

No better moviegoing memories: A defense of and celebration of midnight movie screenings...

"I want you to know that, if I did have a son, and the opportunity presented itself to wake him up to watch a baseball game or to listen to the president on the radio, or for absolutely no reason at all..."

The Colorado theater shooting happened just over a week ago, during a period when I was out of town and thus unable to churn out any immediate thoughts.  In retrospect, I may be grateful for that.  Mass shootings are an all-too common occurrence in America, but this time felt different.  I've long argued that one of the problems with American society is that they tend to make every major tragedy and/or scandal about them, something that arguably goes back to the death of Princess Diana Spencer in August 1997.  Yet this time I couldn't help feeling like I had been specifically targeted.  After all, these weren't just moviegoers, but midnight moviegoers.  They weren't just midnight moviegoers, but midnight moviegoers watching a Batman film.  Whether by random decision (Holmes had allegedly intended to attack a shopping mall but changed his mind) or explicit targeting, the assailant this time around specifically picked people like me and you.  The readers of this site are arguably not general moviegoers per-se, but just the sort that flock to midnight screenings as a matter of habit.  And James Holmes, for reasons that may or may not become apparent over the next few months, didn't just commit mass murder in a place I consider sacred.  No, he opened fire and shed blood during a midnight screening, of a Batman film no less.  And as the week has seen all sorts of the usual finger-pointing, much of it being the usual 'the movies made him do it' nonsense that we haven't seen much of since Columbine.  But more than a little of the blame-game has been directed at the very institution of midnight screenings and the fevered anticipation that makes them so enjoyable, however absurd that seems on its face. Intentional or no, Mr. Holmes has sullied and bloodied an institution that I hold very dear, an institution that I someday hope to share with my children when the opportunity presents itself.  As such, right or wrong, I'm taking that just a little bit personally.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Trailer Analysis: Man of Steel gets a cryptic and real-world teaser from of the Batman Begins school of marketing.

Old news, for sure, but I was on vacation last weekend and then returned home to find my son had a stomach bug (he's fine now, natch), so I'm only now getting around to this teaser (and a couple other trailers of note.  As you all surely know by now, Warner Bros. released two teasers attached to The Dark Knight Rises this weekend, one with voice-over provided by Pa Kent (Kevin Costner) and the other by Jor-El (Russell Crowe).  While the intitial response was that Zack Snyder is basically making Terrence Malick's Superman: The Movie, the truth is that this initial teaser is merely emulating the play book of Batman Begins. Please watch the first teaser for Batman Begins after the jump and then we'll continue.

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why Kristen Stewart's public apology is far more disturbing than her (and Rupert Sanders's) apparent transgression.

It could be argued that director Rupert Sanders and actress Kristen Stewart owe an apology to a handful of people.  Obviously they are in respective deep trouble with Robert Pattinson and Liberty Ross.  They certainly owe an apology to Saunders's two children, and perhaps some kind of apology to certain studio executives at Universal and Summit/Lionsgate, since their allegedly adulterous actions will certainly have some kind of impact on the respect fortunes of Snow White and the Huntsman (with a sequel now in doubt) and Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn part II (which may well increase in interest ala Mr. and Mrs. Smith).  But other than that, neither of these people owe any of us a damn thing.  I am less troubled by the apparent adultery (or attempted adultery?) than I am by Kristen Stewart's public apology, seemingly specifically intended for Mr. Pattinson but released out into the open for all to see as a kind of public mea culpa.  I don't blame Ms. Stewart for this instant press release so much as I blame a media/popular culture that demanded a public apology for an inherently private indiscretion.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How a severe lack of 'cause and effect' undoes all that is good about The Dark Knight Rises, and why its alleged political underpinnings are merely a smokescreen.

It's not the plot holes or periodically silly coincidences.  This will not be a list of 'things that don't work in The Dark Knight Rises' but rather an old-fashioned essay (shocker!) concerning what I feel are the overall screenwriting flaws that tear down and ultimately destroy what otherwise is a technically fine motion picture.  Obviously it's pure unapologetic spoilers after the jump, so tread no further if you don't want to know.  But the short version is that, aside from certain logic issues, almost nothing that occurs during the first 150 minutes of the film truly matters in regards to how the story ends.  And moreover, the unwillingness to focus on the people actually being affected by the (mostly off screen) chaos renders the film's token topicality not only politically irrelevant but dangerously close to exploitation.  To wit...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Weekend Box Office: Seemingly affected by frontloaded anticipation more than tragedy, The Dark Knight Rises opens with $160 million, good for third-best debut ever.

When a heavily-anticipated film debuts alongside a mass murder that takes place during a midnight showing of said film, it's difficult to know how to analyze the opening weekend figures.  Under normal circumstances, the fact that The Dark Knight Rises (trailer/review/spoiler thread) debuted with $160 million over the weekend would lend itself to the usual analysis, dealing with weekend multipliers, midnight-percentages, comparisons to The Dark Knight and other recent blockbusters, and a guesstimate in regards to final domestic outcome.  But it is impossible for now to know what the effect of the shooting had on the film's short term or long term box office performance. So for the sake of this calculation, we will basically presume that the shooting had little quantifiable effect on the numbers.  Quite frankly, looking over the data, I'm inclined to believe as much.  The film did about as well, give-or-take, as it would have been expected to do.  But the numbers, presuming little-to-no effect from Friday morning's tragedy, means that the third Chris Nolan Batman film was a slightly less anticipated affair than the last go-around, which will likely bode (comparatively) ill for long-term grosses.  Basically, horror of horrors, The Dark Knight Rises might just perform like a normal quick-kill mega-blockbuster.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises spoiler discussion thread...

So it's midnight on the West Coast, which means the first midnight showings are just letting out on the East Coast.  Okay, you know the drill.  Here's hoping I have more comments here than I did for The Amazing Spider-Man.  Anyway, I'm actually going to be away from my keyboard for a couple days, but I'll *try* to do a weekend box office write-up on Sunday morning.  Until then, it's officially open season for anyone who saw the third and final Chris Nolan Batman film.  You've heard my thoughts, now time to share yours, in as much detail as you desire.

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012) is the least of the Nolan Bat-films, continuing the curse of the comic book threequels.

The Dark Knight Rises
165 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

First and foremost, I cannot decide at the moment if The Dark Knight Rises (trailer) is a 'better film' than Spider-Man 3Batman Forever, and/or X-Men: The Last Stand.  The fact that I have to outright state as much should tell you what a comparative disappointment this film is.  Overall, its many storytelling flaws bring the picture down, offering only engaging acting, entertaining character interaction, and the kind of empty-headed (but oft impressive) action spectacle associated with more conventional blockbusters.  It is a hodgepodge of several classic Batman stories squished into one chaotic narrative that ends up resembling a mash-up of Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Rocky III. There are moments of emotional engagement in the first third and the final moments pack an appropriate wallop.  But the film frankly drags for much of its middle 90 minutes on its way to a surprisingly unremarkable climax.  Save for mostly fine performances, including a terrific supporting turn by Anne Hathaway, and some wonderful character beats scattered throughout, this is sadly the very definition of an unnecessary sequel.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Growing Pains: In the wake of Finding Nemo 2, just what is phase two of Pixar animation, and is it something to fear?

Is Pixar as we know it finished?  Has a fifteen-year run of uniformly fine cartoons given way to an act two filled with half-hearted misses and needless sequels?  It's a somewhat sensationalistic argument, but the timing is not a little disconcerting.  Andrew Stanton, fresh off the epic financial failure that is John Carter (which in many ways can be considered a Pixar live-action venture), is now back at Pixar to helm the sequel to one of his animated hits, a sequel that arguably no one was asking for.  And Pixar, fresh off a critical disaster (Cars 2) and a somewhat middling original effort that was supposed to restore their luster (Brave), is now set to make a sequel to their most popular film, a sequel that arguably no one was asking for.  

23 years of Batman trailers, all in one spot...

Purely for fun, here is pretty much every single theatrical trailer for every single modern-day live-action Batman film, from Tim Burton's Batman way back in 1989 to the one I'm seeing tonight.  Do enjoy, and feel free to add your own qualitative rankings.

Scott Mendelson

Monday, July 16, 2012

M. Night Shyamalan's After Earth gets a 'viral video'. Plus, a brief look back at classic M. Night Shyamalan teasers...

Another bit of catch-up from Comic Con weekend, this 75-second alternative history of the Earth presumably provides a bit of background exposition for Sony's summer 2013 sci-fi spectacle After Earth.  The idea of Will Smith teaming with M. Night Shyamalan is incredibly exciting, as I've written before (long story short, they are both mega-star control freaks who will hopefully temper each other's bad impulses while embracing each others' good ideas).  While I won't paste the plot exposition here for those who don't want to know, I will say that Sony has not been shy about revealing the core story-line as if it were just another science-fiction adventure film.  It's a little disheartening frankly, as I fondly remember the days when M. Night Shyamalan's films went into theaters with barely a hint or two as to what it was actually about.  Unbreakable, Signs, The Village, and Lady in the Water all had bare-bones teasers that often hid the true premise of the respective film, leaving much unknown to the ticket-buyer walking in on opening day.  Yes The Happening didn't have any story twists per-se to reveal while The Last Airbender was based on an existing television show, but I do recall a certain thrill at the intentional withholding of information following The Sixth Sense's surprising success.  They were masterclasses for selling a movie without giving away much at all, and they all retain their impact no matter what how we feel about the finished films.  Anyway, M. Night Shyamalan's After Earth opens June 7th, 2013.  Click below the jump some classic N. Night Shyamalan teasers (thanks to Trailer Addict for keeping these around).  Which one is your favorite?  For me, it's a toss-up between Unbreakable and The Village.

Scott Mendelson

Comic Con catch-up - Tim Burton's Frankenweenie gets a charming 1950s-style trailer.

There was a surprising lack of trailers leaked out of Comic Con, with several of the big guns (The Lone Ranger, Iron Man 3, etc.) being shown exclusively to the Comic Con audience (no, I'm not posting any alleged Man of Steel bootlegs, we all can wait until Friday).  But the best spot of what was released has to be this charming and amusing 1950s-style trailer for Tim Burton's Frankenweenie.  After two genuine disappointments in a row, Tim Burton arguably has to prove that it was just a blip on the radar and not some kind of a late-career rut.  As is, it's no secret that animation is where Burton puts most of his original ideas anyway, since nearly all of his live action films, even his best ones (Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, Sweeney Todd, Batman Returns, etc.) are variations on someone else's work.  With the exceptions of Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice, all of Burton's live-action films have been adaptations of some kind, which makes this project somewhat of a conundrum.  Yes, it's a full-length animated remake of a 25-minute live-action short he directed back in 1984, but whatever ideas hes cribbing from were his own in the first place.  Odd.  As it is, the once novel idea of doing a somewhat scary animated film has long become accepted, with the successes of Monster House and Coraline as well as the upcoming ParaNorman.  On the plus side, it's the first Tim Burton project since Mars Attacks! way back in 1996 not to feature Johnny Depp and/or Helena Bonham Carter.  Anyway, Frankenweenie opens in 3D(!) on October 5th.  As always, we'll see.

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, July 15, 2012

In an age of preordained marketing and spoilers, an ode to an age of not knowing and the thrill of unexpected discovery.

As another annual San Diego Comic Con ends with another week full of preordained previews, announcements, and sizzle reels, this seems as good a time as any to talk about something that has been lost in the saturation-level media coverage that surrounds each and every remotely major studio release these days.  I am talking of course about the element of surprise.  I'm not talking about plot spoilers regarding upcoming films, or even the obsessive need for news outlets to report on every plot detail of an upcoming film so that one has to literally live in a cave to avoid knowing too much.  Those are indeed issues, but I'm talking about something even more basic.  I'm talking about the idea of discovering the very existence of a film the old fashioned way.  Be it through a trailer that you didn't expect, or a poster that you didn't see coming, something very precious has been lost over the last fifteen years as the mainstream entertainment press has turned into a full-time, year-round Comic-Con.  We don't discover films we were hoping we might see via actual pre-movie trailers, or even through movie magazines like Premiere or Starlog.  Now they are preordained, with their posters and trailers given online *premieres* that are treated as actual news by film sites the world over.  Maybe it's the cranky old man in me talking, but there is something very special about discovering these films at the theater.  Which brings me to the question: When was the last time I was truly surprised by a piece of film marketing?  

Weekend Box Office: Ice Age 4 tops with $46 million, Amazing Spider-man crosses $200 million, Ted crosses $150 million.

It was the calm before the storm, with only one new wide release daring to debut the weekend before The Dark Knight Rises crushes everything in sight.  That new release is 20th Century Fox's Ice Age: Continental Drift (essay).  So it is with little surprise that the fourth entry in Fox's animation crown jewel, sadly the first terrible entry of the previously 'not bad' series thus far, was number one this weekend, nor is it little surprise that it debuted with an estimated $46 million.  That's a little low all things considered, but Fox couldn't give two craps about domestic gross anyway.  None of the prior three Ice Age films have ever topped $200 million domestic, but that didn't stop Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs from exploding overseas three summers ago and earning $690 million overseas for a $886 million worldwide total, good for the third-highest grossing overseas total ever at the time (it's eighth today) and still the most lopsided foreign grosses (77%) for any movie grossing over $775 million total (removing European films like The Full Monty, European-targeted titles like The Adventures of Tintin, or Miyazaki releases, it's still #7 overall).  So yeah, this new film opened with "just $45 million".  Gasp(!), that's below the $68 million debut of Ice Age: The Meltdown in 2006 ($82 million adjusted for inflation) and the $66 million Wed-Sun debut of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs ($41 million Fri-Sun), and right in line with the $46 million debut of Ice Age ($62 million adjusted for inflation). Despite the 3D bump (which the third film enjoyed as well), this fourth Ice Age film may struggle to top $150 million, putting it well below Ice Age ($176 million), Ice Age 2 ($195 million), and Ice Age 3 ($196 million).  Oh well, it was already at $225 million overseas before it even opened in America, and it's at $385 million today with at least a $600-700 million worldwide total for the (comparatively cheap) $100 million animated feature.  This is one franchise were America just doesn't matter. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Zack Snyder's Man of Steel gets a teaser poster.

Zack Snyder's Superman reboot, Man of Steel, just premiered its teaser trailer at Comic Con and the reviews are mostly positive, with the somber, large-scale drama being compared to Terrence Malick.  Since the teaser premiering with The Dark Knight Rises is said to be pretty similar to what the SDCC attendees saw about an hour ago, I'll refrain from commentary until I can post the actual teaser (I'm hoping-against-hope that Warner screens said teaser before my Tuesday night Dark Knight Rises IMAX press screening). So yeah, here's the dark and moody poster.  Looks fine to me, but it's just a poster and we'll know more once we all get to see whatever it was that set Comic Con aflame.

Scott Mendelson

Friday, July 13, 2012

"Death doesn't like to be cheated." Why the Ice Age series is the Final Destination of animated franchises:

For those who wonder why I go out of my way to praise the Dreamworks Animation library, even the Madagascar films, you might want to sample Ice Age 4: Continental Drift. I'm not going to do a full review, but it's pretty terrible, a paint-by-numbers narrative (overprotective dads, boy-crazy teenage girls, damsels-in-distress, etc.) that makes Madagscar 3: Europe's Most Wanted look like The Incredibles. With another overseas haul over $225 million before the film even touches US shores, there is a good chance that the series will actually produce more sequels than The Land Before Time (13 chapters, natch). I made a comment yesterday, sight as-of-yet-unseen, that the Ice Age series was basically the Final Destination series of animation. In that I meant that both the first Ice Age and the first Final Destination films were real movies, they were thoughtful, character-driven dramas that were surprisingly somber and meditative about their core subject: death. Final Destination 2-5 and Ice Age 2-4 may have been cartoon-ish and paper-thin crowd-pleasing entertainments, but the first installments had depth, meaning, and genuine emotional engagement.  They were real films.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Watch/Discuss: Sam Raimi's Wizard of Oz prequel, Oz: The Great and Powerful, gets a badly acted teaser.

Not much to say here, as the first of I presume several Comic Con trailers comes online (The Lone Ranger screened for the convention, but it's not online yet). It looks like Disney and Sam Raimi are clearly trying to emulate Alice in Wonderland via The Wizard of Oz. Oddly enough, the acting is actually pretty bad in what little of it we see, as James Franco (Oz) ', Mila Kunis, and Michelle Williams (Glinda the 'Good Witch') come off as stilted and uncomfortable with the fairy-tale trappings. I'm sure Rachel Weisz will kick ass as Evanora (IE - the Wicked Witch) and the $200 million visuals will be a feast for the eyes, but the oddly 'off' lead performances should put up an immediate 'danger' signal. Anyway, Oz: The Great and Powerful opens on March 8th, 2013. As always, we'll see.

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lionsgate's The Possession gets a poster aping a key image in the Haunting In Connecticut poster...

Prior to The Expendables ($34.8 million) and The Hunger Games ($152 million), The Haunting In Connecticut had the second-biggest opening in Lionsgate history outside of the Saw sequels and Tyler Perry films.  With $23 million, it lagged only behind Fahrenheit 9/11 ($23.9 million) up until just two years ago.  As of today, it's still Lionsgate's 14th biggest debut and their fourth-biggest debut outside of those two franchises.  And with a final domestic gross of $55.3 million, it ranks as Lionsgate's 12th biggest grosser, and the fifth-biggest earned for Lionsgate outside of the above-noted Saw sequels/Tyler Perry projects.  Only The Lincoln Lawyer ($58 million), The Expendables ($103 million), Fahrenheit 9/11 ($119 million) and The Hunger Games have topped it among Lionsgate 'originals' (the Perry films that earned more were Why Did I Get Married Too?, Madea's Family Reunion, and Madea Goes to Jail).  I bring this up because we now have a poster for The Possession, which brazenly mimics the core imagery of The Haunting In Connecticut (which, I should add, is a surprisingly good character-driven ghost story).  We may decry the obvious thievery and probable misdirection, but looking at the numbers, I can't really blame them..

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Who needs origins? 8 comic book films that just dove right in.

Much of the criticism hurled in the direction of The Amazing Spider-Man centers around the choice to spend the first half of the film retelling the same origin story that was rather explicitly told in Sam Raimi's 2002 Spider-Man. It is part of a swelling debate of sorts about whether or not proverbial 'part ones' always need to retell a well-known origin story in order to kick-start their respective franchises.  But there exists at least a handful of comic book adaptations that either completely eschew or compartmentalize the origin material.  Be they successful as art or not, they represent the idea that it is possible to start (or restart) a comic book series without retelling the same origin over and over again.  To wit...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Weekend Box Office (07/08/12): Savages debuts well, Katy Perry does not, as holdovers get holiday boost.

I've already allotted five paragraphs to The Amazing Spider-Man, so it's time to discuss the other films.  There were two other wide openers this weekend.  Oliver Stone's Savages debuted on Friday of the holiday weekend, proving to be relatively successful counter-programming.  The $45 million hard-R drug thriller earned $16.2 million.  Considering most of the stars (Blake Lively, Salma Hayek, Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson, and Benicio Del Toro) are not box office draws, the director was the main attraction here.  While supporting player John Travolta probably helped a bit, this was Oliver Stone's unofficial return to gritty, adult-skewing genre fare.  World Trade Center, W., and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps were exactly kids flicks, but the unapologetic auteur behind Platoon, JFK, and Natural Born Killers hadn't been seen since Any Given Sunday back in 1999 .  As such, it stands as the third-biggest debut of his career, behind World Trade Center ($18 million) and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps ($19 million).  With a C+ from Cinemascore (it's arguably worse than that, sadly, highlighting boring youngsters over entertaining grownups while being a good 50% longer than it should be), it won't be reaching the heights of Platoon ($138 million) or the $70-$75 million range of Any Given Sunday, JFK, World Trade Center, and Born on the Fourth of July.  Coming anywhere near the $50 million mark (Natural Born Killers) will count as a win for Universal, which probably should have moved this one to July 13th after they moved the unexpectedly successful Ted to June 29th.

A look at the six-day opening weekend for The Amazing Spider-Man. Has Sony established a new franchise or merely temporarily dodged a bullet?

There are a number of ways to judge the six-day $137 million debut of The Amazing Spider-Man (review).  First of all, in all but the most unlikely of circumstances, a film grossing $140 million in its first six days ($62 million over the traditional Fri-Sun weekend) is a pretty big financial success.  For the record, the film played 44% 3D and 10% IMAX.  The film earned an A- from Cinemascore and played 75% over 12 years old and 25% families with kids under 12.  Of the over-12 audience, it played 54% were male and/or over 25 years old. Of the under-12s, 73% were under 10 years old and 65% were boys. While final figures won't drop until Monday, the six-day weekend puts in between 25 and 30 among the biggest six-day totals.  It's the fourth-biggest Fri-Sun debut of 2012 and the second-biggest of summer.  On the other hand, as far as Spider-Man films go, it's actually pretty weak sauce.  Spider-Man 2 opened on this same holiday weekend back in 2004, earning a then-record $180 million in its first six days (with $88 million over the traditional Fri-Sun weekend, among the top-five opening weekends ever at that time).  The first Spider-Man film (audio commentary) opened in May 2002 to a then-record $114 million Fri-Sun debut, earning $144 million over its first six days of play, three of those days falling in the middle of the school year no less.  As for Spider-Man 3, it also broke the Fri-Sun record back in May 2007 ($151 million) before earning $176 million in its first six days.  So factoring in inflation (Spider-Man - $196m, Spider-Man 2 - $229m - third best six-day of all time, Spider-Man 3 - $202m) and the 3D ticket-price bump, The Amazing Spider-Man sold far fewer tickets than its predecessors over its first six days of release.  Point being, the Sam Raimi trilogy set box office records, while The Amazing Spider-Man merely exists as another relatively large-scale blockbuster amid a sea of preordained blockbusters.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Music of the Batman... 50 years of Batman themes!

Purely for fun, and purely because I was in the mood, I've compiled every relevant Batman musical theme since the 1960s.  One live-action TV show, three film themes, and four animated series themes. A few things of note.  First of all, that audio clip of Shirley Walker walking us through the Batman: The Animated Series theme is a treasure to behold, especially as she passed away several years ago (it's the last cut on the two-disc Batman: The Animated Series score collection, which yes I do own).  Secondly, and this is what inspired me to compile these in the first place, whatever misgivings you may have about Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, Elliot Goldenthal's music should not be discounted.  His rip-roaring, more overtly comic book-ish theme is still a joy to listen to, successfully combining the lingering darkness from the Burton films with the more traditional Caped Crusader heroics on display in Schumacher's films (the rest of the jazzy, offbeat music for Batman Forever is pretty terrific too). Thirdly, however powerful and effective the Hans Zimmer/James Newton Howard music may be for the Nolan Batman films, the themes are dreadfully challenging to hum, and I'd be lying if the Batman Begins 'action theme' didn't sound just a bit reminiscent of Jerry Goldsmith's theme to The Shadow (ironically best evidenced in this trailer for The Saint). Finally, despite the nine themes sampled below (and the fact that she's seen quite a few episodes of Batman: The Animated Series and Batman: The Brave and the Bold), my daughter considers the 1960s Batman television theme to be the only 'real' Batman theme song and gets pissed when I hum anything else.  To be fair, I'm not exactly in a rush to show her Batman Returns or The Dark Knight (although she could probably handle Batman & Robin just fine).  Please enjoy and share your thoughts below.  What's your favorite Batman music?  Is it still Elfman above all else or has another later theme supplanted it?  What music do you hear when you think of Batman?

Scott Mendelson

Friday, July 6, 2012

Thursday box office: Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D debuts with $3m while The Amazing Spider-Man now sits with $75m.

So The Amazing Spider-Man heads into the Fri-Sun weekend with $75 million after three days.  There is little to speculate at this point.  All relevant mathematical precedents (Transformers, Transformers 3, Spider-Man 2, War of the Worlds, etc.) point to The Amazing Spider-Man ending its six-day weekend with around $140 million.  I'll discuss whether that's good or bad come Sunday (it's a little complicated), but for now the film is no outright flop and probably will encourage other studios to consider rebooting their cherished properties sooner rather than later.  Alas... Anyway, the first day for Paramount's 3D musical documentary, Katy Perry: Part of Me, earned $3.1 million today.  That's obviously closer to the $4.9 million that Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience earned on its opening day (a Friday, natch) as opposed to the $12 million that Justin Bieber: Never Say Never earned over its debut Friday.  Even if the Katy Perry espionage thriller ends up closer to the $11 million that Glee 3D grossed versus the $72 million finishes of Michael Jackson: This Is It and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, the film cost just $12 million to make and may-well become a popular slumber-party rental for the next year or so.  I make no promises about updating in regards to Friday numbers, but I'll have the full analysis for Peter, Katy, and Ollie (Stone) come Sunday.

Scott Mendelson

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises gets one last (?) IMAX poster...

We're two weeks until this thing opens, so it's the final leg of the marketing lap.  I've personally wondered why Warner Bros and/or IMAX is even bothering at this point.  Is there really anyone who isn't sure if they want to see the film at this time, someone who might be swayed by a billboard or a bus station poster (or yet another television spot)?  I'm not a huge fan of this poster (it's visually intriguing but feels very cut-and-paste-ish), although I'm glad it once again has Batman front-and-center, as opposed to the odd Dark Knight posters which were visually richer but with odd artistic choices (a giant wheel being the center of focus, Batman posed like he just blew up a building, etc.).  Anyway, if the screening schedule follows suit to four years ago, there is a chance I may get to see this in just under a week, although more likely I'll be waiting for the conventional All-Media.  No matter, but since I'm going to be out of town the weekend it opens, I'm going to be very sad if I don't get an invite to a press screening.  Come what may, The Dark Knight Rises opens on July 20th.  As always, we'll see.  We'll *all* see.

Scott Mendelson

In mainstream films, dead moms don't count...

I had originally planned to do a spoiler-filled discussion of the various things that vexed me about The Amazing Spider-Man, but frankly my heart just isn't in it.  The film is obviously a victim of severe post-production tinkering (Devin Faruci laid it out here) and it just feels petty to further attack a film that A) I've already panned in 1,500 non-spoiler words and B) is more a disappointing mediocrity than an outright travesty.  Instead, I'd like to use the film's release to discuss something that has bothered me for at least the last several months, something I made a brief note about during the run-up to Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  If you've seen The Amazing Spider-Man (and this isn't a spoiler if you haven't), you'll know that Peter Parker's emotional trauma is partially centered around the fact that his parents abandoned him when he was a young child and then died soon after.  But as the film progresses, it's clear that Peter's journey and Peter's discoveries center almost exclusively around his father (Campell Scott).  His mother (Embeth Davidtz) gets barely a line of dialogue and no real character to play.  And that's the pattern, it would seem.  Be they dead at the start or be they dead by act one, dead fathers are often fleshed out characters while dead mothers are, at best, pictures on the bookshelf.

When the private life overwhelms the public persona - Is Tom Cruise about to become the next Mel Gibson?

I don't generally discuss gossip, so I'm going to do my best to keep this film-centric.  First and foremost, there is bitter irony that this is all occurring just as Tom Cruise has reaffirmed his movie stardom.  Seven years ago, his box office bankability was put in severe doubt due to the beginning of his courtship of Ms. Katie Holmes.  Now, just as Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol has reaffirmed both his box office muscle and his dedication to a certain level of mainstream quality, the end of this relationship may torpedo his career all over again, be it temporarily or permanently.  Now of course the film that Mr. Cruise was promoting back in June of 2005 when he performed his famous couch-jumping was Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds, which went on to earn $234 million in the US and $591 million worldwide, making it Cruise's highest grossing film ever on both levels (M:I4 eclipsed it worldwide last year with $693 million).  In the years that followed, we had a somewhat under-performing franchise sequel (Mission: Impossible III with $133m domestic and $397m worldwide on a $160m budget), a political drama that was never going to be a blockbuster (Lions For Lambs, which earned $15 million in the US but $63 million worldwide on a $35 million budget), an over-budgeted but well-reviewed potboiler (Valkyrie, which cost $90 million and earned $200 million worldwide), and Knight and Day, a $117 million action comedy with Cameron Diaz that still earned $261 million worldwide.  So, coupled with a crowd-pleasing cameo in Tropic Thunder, the idea that Tom Cruise had lost his luster was more about public relations and alienating some of his more casual fans than any real loss of box office mojo.  But this may be different...

The Amazing Spider-Man earns $23.4 million on its second day, bringing two-day total to $59 million.

Well, this is the first (small) sign of trouble.  The Amazing Spider-Man 35% on its second day, earning $23.4 million over July 4th.  It's not a dreadful plunge, and when you remove the $7.5 million worth of midnight screenings on Tuesday, it's closer to a 15% drop.  The film has earned $59.2 million in two days, or exactly what Spider-Man 3 earned on its opening day back in May 2007.  Among the various July 4th openers in recent years, its two-day total puts it ahead of everything save Spider-Man 2 ($64 million), Transformers: Dark of the Moon ($64 million), Transformers ($65 million... also opening on a Tuesday), and Twilight Saga: Eclipse ($92 million, although coming off an insanely front-loaded $30 million at midnight and $68 million over its first 24 hours).  The comparison points should be Spider-Man 2, Transformers 3, and Transformers.  Spider-Man 2 debuted with $40 million on its opening day (Wednesday) but then plunged 41% to $23 million as well.  The difference is that Spidey's second day didn't actually fall on July 4th.  When Transformers debuted on a Tuesday, its Wednesday total actually went up 4% from $27 million to $29 million.  However, when factoring in those pesky Monday-night sneaks (first 1.25 days = $36 million), then Transformers technically dropped 19%.  Without even looking at the whole 3D/IMAX ticket-price bump issue, the adjusted-for-inflation two-day totals for Spider-Man 2 ($81 million) and Transformers ($75 million) are well-above The Amazing Spider-Man's figures. On the plus side, it's been playing identical to Transformers: Dark of the Moon, minus only the $5.5 million worth of 9pm showings that film had prior to the midnight screenings. Two days in, it still looks like The Amazing Spider-Man will end its six day weekend with between $140 million and $165 million.

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Sam Raimi's Oz: The Great and Powerful gets a teaser poster. Is it the next Alice In Wonderland or the next John Carter?

It's going to be a slow week at Mendelson's Memos this week, both because I have holiday-related family stuff and because I have a slight case of writer's block (I don't want to incessantly whine about The Amazing Spider-Man and not much else is happening news-wise at least until I see Savages on Friday morning).  Anyway, Disney dropped this poster for Sam Raimi's $200 million (!!!) Oz: The Great and Powerful, which is apparently a prequel to the original Wizard of Oz.  Disney is opening this on March 8th, 2013, or the same weekend that Disney's Alice In Wonderland debuted in 2010.  Let's hope they have better luck with this James Franco/Mila Kunis/Zach Braff/Michelle Williams/Rachel Weisz tent-pole than they did with their last first-weekend-of-March entry, John Carter.

Scott Mendelson

Amazing Spider-Man sets Tuesday record with $35 million opening day. Six day weekend: $140m-$162m.

The Amazing Spider-Man ended up almost as amazing as Spider-Man 2 on the first day of its respective six-day Independence Day holiday weekend.  With $35 million per-Sony, it broke the record for the biggest Tuesday gross ever and the biggest Tuesday opening day ever (both held by Transformers, grossed $27 million over its first day ($4 million of that, or 11.4%, was from IMAX engagements).  But, as you recall, Transformers had $8.8 million worth of 8pm-12am sneak previews on Monday that year, giving the film a 1.25 day total of $36 million.  So Transformers needed 1.25 days to do what The Amazing Spider-Man did in 24 hours.  But The Amazing Spider-Man has 3D bumps and inflation to reckon with.  Inflation alone would put Transformers's opening 1.25 days at about $42 million, which is about what Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen made ($43 million) on its first 1.25 days this time last year.  So it appears offhand that The Amazing Spider-Man will perform, in terms of weekend multipliers, somewhere between 4x and 4.6x its opening day number, or about what Transformers (4.3x - $155m/$36m), Transformers 3 (4.1x - $180m/$43m), Spider-Man 2 (4.5x - $180m/$40m), Hancock (4.6x - $112m/$24m), and Superman Returns (4.6x - $97m/$21m) did over their respective July 4th six-day "weekends". The outlier is War of the Worlds, which opened with $21 million on a Wednesday and made it to $112 million by Monday, a 5x weekend multiplier. As such, expect The Amazing Spider-Man to gross between $140 million and $162 million by Sunday night, with an off-chance of it earning as much as $175 million.

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Midnight box office: The Amazing Spider-Man earns $7.5m at 12:01am. Will it fall closer to $112m or $155m by Sunday?

The official numbers are in, and The Amazing Spider-Man is off to a decent if-not amazing start.  The reboot earned $7.5 million in midnight screenings.  $1.2 million of that came from IMAX alone, giving each IMAX theater a $4,000 per-screen average.  For comparison sake, Spider-Man 3 debuted with $10 million worth* of midnight showings five summers ago.  While said threequel debuted on a Friday as opposed to Tuesday, it also was in the middle of the school year and didn't have the benefit of 3D ticket prices and expanded IMAX opportunities.  To be fair, there wasn't nearly as much 'rush out and see it' factor this time around, as it wasn't a sequel to a popular series and didn't have the debut of a fan-favorite villain (Venom, natch).  As it is, $7.5 million is the same midnight number that Iron Man 2 pulled in two years ago on its way to a $128 million Fri-Sun total.  But it's difficult/unfair to compare Fri-Sun openings with extended week openings, so let's look at more relevant stats.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Open discussion Spoiler thread for The Amazing Spider-Man...

The first midnight shows should be letting out in about two hours, but I'm off to bed now.  So it's your turn to praise or condemn the Spider-Man reboot.  I'll add some thoughts tomorrow, either in the body of this text or in the comments section.  Did you like it?  How does it stack up with the first three films?  Did you see it in 2D, 3D, or IMAX 3D?  What were the crowd reactions?  I'll also be covering the initial midnight box office when those numbers come out tomorrow morning.  Until then, have at it, true believers!

Scott Mendelson

While you're at the office, listen to this Spider-Man (2002) commentary with myself, Aaron Neuwurth, and Jim Dietz.

Watching this two days before seeing The Amazing Spider-Man probably didn't help, because it just reminded me how much of Spider-Man worked just fine the first time.  Having said that, this is my first commentary and one of the more enjoyable things I've done in awhile.  It's myself, Aaron Neuwirth, and Jim Dietz.  Do enjoy, because I certainly did.

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Weekend Box Office: Ted, Magic Mike, and Madea's Witness Protection all open huge in 'everybody wins' weekend.

This weekend represented a shining example of the two best trends in mainstream moviegoing this year.  As I wrote (here and here), we've seen a real upswing in both mid-to-low-budget mainstream fare that aren't especially 'tentpole-ish' as well as a huge upswing in the number of R-rated films being released by the major studios.  As such, two of the four wide releases this weekend were both R-rated and all four were relatively small-scale and in 2D.  That they mostly debuted to blockbuster numbers is an encouraging sign that not every movie need be a $150 million fantasy genre franchise entry.  The top film of the weekend is also the best mainstream picture of the summer, as Seth MacFarlane's Ted (review) debuted to a massive $54 million.  That's the third-best debut for an R-rated comedy behind the $57 million opening of Sex and the City and the $87 million Fri-Sun debut of The Hangover part II.  Among non-sequel/spin-off R-rated comedies, it topped the $44 million record debut of The Hangover and is the is among the top-ten best R-rated debuts of all-time. This is a massive win for all involved, bringing Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane serious film-making clout, further confirming that Mark Wahlberg is an actual 'put butts in the seats' movie star and giving Universal something to laugh about. Speaking of Wahlberg, this is his second biggest opening behind the $68 million debut of Planet of the Apes back in 2001, and it needs only cross $133 million to supplant The Departed as his third-highest grossing film (Planet of the Apes and The Perfect Storm earned $180 million and $182 million respectively)


Related Posts with Thumbnails